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5. Eddic Poetry

Terry Gunnell

Subject Literature » Medieval Literature

Place Northern Europe » Scandinavia

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235026.2004.00008.x


It must always be remembered that when scholars refer to eddic poetry, or the Poetic Edda, they usually mean the contents of a single, fairly insignificant-looking, medieval manuscript known as the Codex Regius of the Elder Edda, rather than a genre defined on the basis of a particular school of authorship or literary style. The manuscript in question, written c.1270, contains a body of 29 poetic works in Old Norse-Icelandic, 10 of them dealing with mythological material, and 19 with Scandinavian and Germanic heroes of ancient times. As will be shown below, this material varies in terms of poetic form, as do works in other manuscripts that have been classified as belonging to the same ‘eddic’ category. The term ‘eddic poetry’ essentially covers those anonymously transmitted ‘poems’ (as we may call them for the moment) that deal with the myths or heroic world of the Nordic countries and make use of the ljóðaháttr, fornyrðislag or málaháttr metres (see chapter 15 ). This is a grouping well understood by most scholars as a means of distinguishing these works from skaldic poetry, but it is also somewhat misleading, not least because the generalized classification tends to obscure the variety and individuality of the works in question. Indeed, several features indicate that the Codex Regius is first and foremost a thematic collection of material from differing backgrounds, similar ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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